Thursday, 28 July 2016

Sky Q

This is just first impressions. I have just had Sky Q installed.

First, yes, I am using Sky. Personally I don't think I have watched Sky for a long time, and then it was only to record and watch my own live TV appearances. Maybe before that I watched some series (well, recorded and watched later). However, my family like it. Sandra likes it. Lewis likes it. So we have it.

We used to have 7 Sky boxes in total, but some have broken over time (all of the original ones, I think), and some kids have moved out, and so on, and we were actually down to only 3, albeit all new 2TB Sky+ HD boxes. Annoying I have been paying for all 7 boxes, mainly because I did not really want to run the gauntlet of talking to Sky customer services. It comes to something when you would rather pay £40 a month more than call them! Sadly the on-line order form does not seem to have a "cease this extra room" else I would have ordered on-line.

Anyway, I saw Sky Q on the site, and there was an order button, and it will save me quite a lot. So I ordered, along with four of the Sky Q Mini boxes. They seem to have no ongoing cost, so why not.

The installation took many hours. You would expect the hard bit is fitting a new dish and running cables, but actually that was quick. I had a pole for the old dish, and existing cabling I could patch through bypassing the distribution amp. It uses two cables for wide band Horizontal and Vertical, so is different to old Sky boxes. What took so long was the set up, s/w upgrade, and so on. That literally took hours, and they got another guy in to help.

Even then, they did not actually set up as I asked, but managed to bodge it together.

So, first impressions...

WiFi

The first annoyance is that the whole system seems to rely on use of WiFi. It uses a WPS system to connect one box to the next. Each box appears to also work as an AP itself with a different SSID. You can even have one box daisy chained of another it seems. I now have 5 new SSIDs visible locally - that is a pain.

There is an option to "connect to your broadband router via wired network". I set that up, but it still seems to have the WiFi and all the SSIDs still. It looks a lot like this just sets up the "client" side to be wired, but the device still works as an AP to any other boxes if you need. I cannot see how to turn that off and just use the LAN.

Update: You can turn off the WiFi! Go in to home menu, scroll to "Settings" but do not select it, then 0, 0, 1, and select, and that is installer menu where wifi can be turned off (2.4GHz and 5GHz separately). It also has the power line stuff which is definitely switched off!



Limitations

Then we come to one of the key problems, which they seem to think will change in future. It seems you can only have two of the Sky Q Mini boxes operating at a time. The others just tell you there are too many in use and to put one in standby. This is very odd given that they say you can have up to 4 of them. If limited to two working, why is there a limit on how many on the network anyway?

Being lied to?

This is what is really annoying me now.

They stated clearly that whilst live TV can only be viewed on three boxes (did not say it was main box plus two minis, just "three boxes"), but they then said categorically that catch-up/recorded/on-demand can be watched on the other boxes.

That seems to be a lie - listen for yourself...

39 comments:

  1. At a guess, your installation is probably a lot more complicated for the 'engineer' that a normal install. You aren't using Sky's broadband, hub etc where it all probably just works on it's own.

    It's probably just not setup right, I would have thought a couple of skillfully worded social media posts in the right place would get an proper tech out to assess and fix

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    1. I actually went through re-installing all the boxes from scratch once they left in a fraction of the time so they are at least all consistent now. The two box at once limit is buried in the terms, so I think I was straight up mis-sold.

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    2. Seems that correct https://www.sky.com/help/articles/the-maximum-number-of-sky-q-mini-boxes-are-already-being-used

      Don't remember that being stated in any of the reviews I've read about Q

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    3. You listened to the call recording?

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    4. Not yet, guessing my link is stating the obvious :p

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  2. Did you get a "deal"? Apart from point blank refusing because I don't have Sky BB they wanted to put my monthly charge up to £120 from £40!

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    1. Oh, ok! Looks like I will have to wait some more! Contract is up next month, have to see if they are offering anything. I seriously doubt it!

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    2. £40/month for Sky? You must be mad!

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    3. My previous monthly was £138.

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    4. Fortunately, I happened to catch a sales guy on the last day of the quota period - apparently, he had to shift a few extra boxes that day to make quota, so I ended up getting a lower monthly rate for Sky Q than I'd been paying previously! Very happy with that. (When it's "pay £60 installation now, but £10 per month less for the next 18 months" it's an easy choice...)

      Just two boxes for me - main and one secondary. I managed to talk the installer into not using wifi for the main box (there was already an Ethernet lead sitting right there from the previous Sky HD box!) - he seemed a bit puzzled, but OK with it.

      At some point I'll probably get round to pushing the mini box onto the main wifi network (sadly, no Ethernet going to the room I wanted that STB in) - the idea of an out of the box WPS setup sitting on my network isn't too appealing!

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    5. When was this magic period as I kinda fancy Q but don't fancy paying through the nose!

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  3. The inability for the end user to turn off the multi radio WiFi is what kills it for me. Apparently these things also have Powerline Ethernet inbuilt which can talk to the SkyQ Hub for added unwanted RF interference. Again might be useful for turnkey Sky Broadband setups but tedious for the rest of us.

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  4. Just about to set this up at my father-in-law's new house (where of course cat6 has been run everywhere in advance).

    I fully expect to have to tolerate the engineer "installing" it for me, and then re-do it afterwards. Will remember the trick to disabling the wifi!

    I'd read that the powerline functionality exists but is not yet enabled.

    As much as it may have its limitations it really seems to be the only game in town for a non-technical person who wants a decent multiroom setup.

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  5. I Don't know why Sky aren’t using unicable. It allows you to run up to 8 receivers from one cable ether using passive splitters or loop thru. My sat>ip box uses it.

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  6. Unicable looks interesting for example for a (small) block of flats where you want multiple independent boxes running from a single dish, but for a residential multiroom setup (where you generally want a master-slave or client-server type topology, with a central repository of recordings) I'm not sure it would work well at all. How would you stream a recording from Box A to Box B in a unicable setup? How would you manage a single centralised recording schedule? How would you pause a live programme at one TV and then resume it from another?

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    1. It works fine being entirely Ethernet and no wireless enabled. Just to get started you need something WPS.

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    2. Unicable and similar have been around for a long time in multi tenant installations and us lot who tinker with sat setups.
      This confuses me why Sky limit the number of active receiving devices, that must be just a software limit as there is no reason you can't run almost unlimited receivers when you use one on horizontal polarisation and one on vertical polarisation.

      It's these such limits that put me off Sky and other commercial systems. If the capability is there, don't restrict it!

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    3. "This confuses me why Sky limit the number of active receiving devices"

      Bandwidth. With separate STBs, yes, you can have an unlimited number of receivers, because each is independent; with Sky Q, you have a single "master" box (connected to the LNB), which streams the video signals over the network to each of the other boxes and any tablets in use. It has a fixed number of satellite tuners inside, finite bandwidth - hence a finite number of streams.

      (From the pressure they've applied to move from independent boxes, I'm wondering if there's an ulterior motive at work? On the previous system, it would be easy to have several boxes on a single "multiroom" package which aren't actually in the same building or even city - just need to spoof the caller ID, trivial with VoIP - perhaps that became common enough to be an issue? Plus the cost of the 0800 modem callback as a way to verify colocation of STBs....)

      Personally, I'd much rather have something like the US CableCard: pay Sky a subscription to get a decoder card, which I plug in to my own kit to stream video over my LAN, with VOD on my own RAID array. Exactly what they'd hate to see happening, of course, and something 99% of their customers would never attempt...

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  7. What's with the picture of the person who didn't want to be photographed?

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    1. The sky installer. Lewis (age 3) took it on my canon. He was also photographed 50 times a second by three CCTV cameras but did not seem to mind them!

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  8. Interesting the dish is two cables for horizontal and vertical wideband. My aunt's apartment complex has a central distibution system for FM, DAB, TV and Satellite. It uses a larger than normal dish with a quattro LNB and then the distribution amps to each apartment do the satellite band switching for each feed as per the normal signalling. I'm guessing this won't work with Sky Q since it can't deliver a wideband signal. The system went in about 8 years ago so they wouldn't have known anything about Sky Q.

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    1. Indeed, that is what I had here, and I am assuming not too.

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    2. Of course, with Sky Q the idea would be one receiver, and distribution via WiFi or Ethernet. I am sure they will be working on that sort of arrangement for hotels and flats and the like.

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    3. Given the arguing that goes on about the building management over things like cutting the grass, cost of heating the public areas of the building, how big the christmas tree is etc. there is zero chance of them agreeing to a building wide Sky Q system. One brave soul suggested building wide wifi on a joint broadband account, and the acrimony that caused (mainly from people that didn't want to pay for it) ensured it and anything else never happens. I'm just hoping the existing TV distribution system keeps working, if it fails I can see it will be me fixing it since they all know I'm the bloke that knows how stuff works. Some of them think the LED lights I put in for my aunt are the eighth wonder of the world. We are talking retirement apartments, and many of the inhabitants are in their 80s.

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    4. Not yet I suspect - remember, the Silver box still has "only" 12 tuners, so can only have 12 channels being received and relayed (either to the screen, the local disk or streamed over the network to other devices) at once. Perhaps adequate for a small hotel - a modified Sky Q Silver box could feed 12 of the mini boxes, if you removed all the DVR functionality and local reception - but you'd need a lot more than 12 channels at a time to feed a whole block of flats or larger hotel.

      It should be possible to build a box with enough tuners to cover the whole range, then relay those over Ethernet (maybe 10G) to as many boxes as you need, but would there be enough demand to make building that box worthwhile rather than using coax and normal boxes?

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    5. How many mix channels are there - I expect a hotel one would need tuners for all of them, yes. But the principle is that ethernet/wifi distribution from one receiver/DVR with storage makes a lot of sense.

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    6. My OH recently decided to order sky q and we live in an apartment block - it took several months to get the communal system upgraded as there were lots of consests and waivers needing agreeing with the freeholder - by the time it was installed she had had enough and has gone with freesat instead

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    7. Based on a quick count of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astra_2E#TV_Channels_on_Astra_2E I make 37 muxes.

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    8. Oh, hang on, if you add Astra 2F and 2G that's another 40, so 77 in total.

      (NB I could totally be misunderstanding this - does a single dish really pick up the signals from all three satellites?)

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    9. @mgboyes: Yes, the three satellites are close enough in orbit that a single dish can pick up all three.

      However, Sky doesn't include all those channels anyway. Building and launching a satellite is very expensive, and a satellite can handle many smaller broadcasters. So Sky and other broadcasters actually buy satellite capacity from a company called Astra, who owns and operates the satellites. This also makes redundancy cheaper - they only need enough spare capacity to cope with a single satellite failure, rather than every broadcaster having to launch their own two satellites (active and backup).

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    10. This is why BSB failed (and were merged in to sky) they built and launched their own fleet of satellites

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    11. As I understand it, then, they'd need 77 tuners to cover all the multiplexes available (maybe a few more for growth/flexibility?) rather than the 12 fitted now - effectively, six Sky Q Silver boxes working as a cluster, streaming the data over Ethernet - maybe multicast at last, within the LAN? It might even all fit over GbE. (Each stream seems to be about 4 Mbps, but up to a dozen within each multiplex?)

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  9. The recorded call does seem misleading to me; whilst she isn't terribly clear in her wording, but she does explicitly say that you can still watch on demand/catchup when the other 3 boxes are in use, which I don't believe to be true.

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  10. I would say having multiple SSIDs active in a home is unfriendly to neighbours so not sure what sky was thinking here. Needing the installer menu to turn them off? really. I also dont like the powerline stuff as that is aweful tech which can interfere with dsl amongst other things.

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  11. I have Sky Q without sky broadband. I have 2 mini boxes. I'm using the wifi on the mini boxes as theyv don't have any ethernet nearby. I've got them set to 5ghz only. They all share the same ssid, not multiple ssids. The advantage of them using their own said is that the traffic between the boxes isn't using the bandwidth of my existing wifi.

    They quite happily picked an unused channel.

    The main issue I have with the system is the unreliability of the boxes (especially the mini boxes) - usually have to reboot at least one of the boxes at least once a week

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    1. The install here was all different SSID, interesting.

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  12. if the SSID are different then it ain't been installed correctly. as soon as WPS is initiated it cones the SSID. I have 6 identical SSID's
    Probably because people think they know better and try and install it better when the engineers gone.

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    1. The engineers left mine in a mess with all different SSIDs and connectivity oddly daisy chained with one via Ethernet. I fixed it, all Ethernet back to main box and no wifi at all.

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